Sparks fly as governor sues over right to hold fireworks display at Mount Rushmore


South Dakota’s governor is suing the US Department of Interior in a bid to see fireworks shot over Mount Rushmore on Independence Day.

Republican Kristi Noem successfully pushed last year for a return of the display after a 10-year hiatus. The event drew national attention when then-president Donald Trump joined Ms Noem on 3 July to give a fiery speech.

But the state’s application to hold fireworks this year has been denied by the National Park Service, which cited safety concerns and objections from local Native American tribes.

U.S. President Trump and first lady Melania Trump attend South Dakota's U.S. Independence Day Mount Rushmore fireworks celebrations at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota
Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended the 2020 event

The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for South Dakota, argues the decision was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the powers granted to the agency in the Constitution.

The state last year signed an agreement with the Trump administration and the Department of the Interior to work towards returning the display this year.

Mount Rushmore is a huge tourism draw, but it has also been a source of tension between the state and local Lakota tribes.

Donald Trump meets Kristi Noem in the Cabinet Room of the White House in 2018
Donald Trump meets Kristi Noem in the Cabinet Room of the White House in 2018

Activists have called for the monument to be returned to tribal control, pointing out the surrounding Black Hills were taken from the tribes in violation of treaties.

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Last year’s event drew concerns about wildfires set off by the fireworks, as well as protests from Lakota activists.

The fireworks were cancelled after 2009 because of fire danger following a pine beetle infestation.

And last month the park service had to close the monument for several days as firefighters battled wildfires within the park grounds.

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